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1. Today one of my coworkers used the most bizarre phrase I've heard in a while. She was asking me to do her section tomorrow and make it all look nice, since Wednesday is her day off. What she said was "could you make it all Mickey Mouse?" So.. short, animalistic and with a high-pitched voice? Possessed of its own fanclub? That would be one heck of a section at Coles..

2. From the book I'm reading right now, Darwin's Watch

Einstein invented general relativity in order to incorporate gravity into special relativity

Now my issue here is with the use of the word 'invented'. In my mind, the logic goes as follows: The laws of relativity etc describe the way the world works. Now, either the world does work in the way described, or it does not. If it does, then how can you say that you invented it? It's not so much inventing the law as discovering it. Inventing something implies creating something that was not there before. You can't invent gravity and you can't invent the way objects act as they approach the speed of light. Even saying that you can theoretically invent the equation to describe it seems ever so slightly off to me.
Mostly I think it's just a bad word choice on the authors' part, but one which was jarring enough to make me think "hold on a second..", and enough to make me more critical than usual of this particular pop science book.

Date: 2006-10-31 03:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] qkwozz.livejournal.com
Perhaps if you think of it as inventing the concept, as opposed to inventing the phenomina.

The same argument could be applied to inventing a hammer. You could argue that hard metal on the end of a piece of wood would make driving slivers of metal into other pieces of wood easy, and it was always going to be so. But you could think of the situation as the invention of the concept of the hammer (initial idea), followed by the implementation of this concept (making it).

Date: 2006-10-31 06:29 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Seems to me that the problem is one of type-setting. If they had said that Einstein invented "General Relativity" then that would not be so bad. It's like saying that Darwin invented "Evolution by Natural Selection", but he certainly did not invent evolution by natural selection. God did.

Right, Mr Dawkins?

Date: 2006-10-31 11:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] erratio.livejournal.com
It still feels wrong to me somehow. Einstein didn't invent any version of geNEral Relativity any more than I would say that Kepler invented the laws that govern how celestial bodies move

Date: 2006-10-31 11:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] erratio.livejournal.com
And now I'm just whinging, basically it 'feels' wrong to me and there isn't much anyone can do to convince me otherwise. Do feel free to keep throwing arguments out though :)

Date: 2006-10-31 12:13 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
By the way, is the title (Darwin's Watch) supposed to be a reference to the old theological retort to evolution? That a watch clearly has a watchmaker, so too must our complex universe have a god?

Date: 2006-10-31 11:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] erratio.livejournal.com
Yep, it's based off Paley's story about the watch. It's a Discworld story intertwined with a discussion of evolution, along with detailed rebuttals of the theistic argument.

Date: 2006-11-01 03:34 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
A Discworld story! Hehe.
In that case, I wouldn't worry too much about it. I thought this was some pop. science book and that you were losing respect for the author. Are you sure that Pratchett didn't intend it as a joke?

Date: 2006-11-01 07:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] erratio.livejournal.com
Ah it's not quite as you think, see the book is written collaboratively between Pratchett and two pop scientists, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. The book is composed of alternating chapters, with odd chapters being the Discworld story and even chapters being the scientific discussion. Right now I'm reading the chapter about time travel by creating wormholes via various methods, it's fascinating but the 'gee whiz!' tone of the writing gets a little grating occasionally

Date: 2006-11-01 08:38 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Oh, that does sound interesting! (Excepting the tone, perhaps)
I have a book here on Chaos Theory by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen (The Collapse of Chaos) and they both write very well.

Date: 2006-11-07 09:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] axl12.livejournal.com
I prefer the world "discover".
Invent is more like creating something new.

Date: 2006-11-09 09:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] erratio.livejournal.com
yeh that's exactly what I mean. 'Invent' just has connotations that don't seem to fit with natural laws..

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